Today’s the last day of public practices at Patriots Training Camp so I’d be derelict in my Barstool duties if I didn’t ditch my loved ones and the probably 10,000 things I should’ve been doing to go catch yesterday’s workout. Dirty work, but someone has to do it. Writing for the Stool is a privilege, but with great power comes great responsibility. Noblesse oblige and all that:
*On the defensive side of the ball, it’s pretty much been Camp Stability. Unlike the last few years where they went through starters like “Game of Thrones” goes through side characters, the top 11 and the sub packages have been set for weeks. Chandler Jones put an arm bar on the right end spot in the first week. It took Dont’a Hightower about a half hour to lock up the Sam linebacker. Steve Gregory is the free safety, Ras-I Dowling the nickel. They ran a lot of situational stuff and on short yardage, Jones kicks inside and Hightower moves up to the line in that Jack spot he sometimes played for Nick Saban. It might just be due to the fact they haven’t had much chance to install the whole scheme and things will get more complicated as we go. But for now it’s nice to have 11-14 familiar faces instead of a cast of thousands.
*The offense? Not so much. With Logan Mankins back line is down to 60% capacity with a 1st unit of Solder-Mankins-Wendell-Connolly-Cannon. Dan Koppen has bounced back and forth between the starters and backups and I’m afraid a decent bar bet might be who lasts longer, him or Bobby Valentine.
*If I’d known they were going to sign Jeffrey Demps off the Team USA 4×100 team, I might’ve watched more Olympic Track. But I agree with the great Dan Jenkins when he says the only thing worse than Track is Field. Why couldn’t he be a Synchronized Swimmer? Then I’d know who he is.
*Future folk hero Nate Ebner is finally healthy and yesterday was the first time I’ve gotten to see him. They weren’t hitting but on the Kick Coverage team his speed and nose for the ball jumps out at you. At one point he split two blockers to be first to the ball carrier and pretty much outran everyone on every kick. He played quite a bit of safety with the 2nd unit in 11-on-11s and one time broke up a pass for Aaron Hernandez. Granted he took like 8 defensive snaps at Ohio St so we’ll probably see Julian Edelman (or Troy Brown) back there before him, but still. The legend begins.
*Sebastian Vollmer is one of those guys who looks 6 inches shorter in shorts and a t-shirt. Still big, but not huge. In fact, he looks scary like Andy Dwyer from “Parks and Recreation.”
*In situational work they ran a lot of goal line 3TE sets, with the tight ends working on getting off jams from the ends and getting into their routes. The 3rd man in was Alex Silvestro. He seems to have the edge over Daniel Fells and Visanthe Shiancoe who’ve been banged up for the most part. You can’t make the club from the tub.
*In that drill, Gronk caught a ridiculous 1-hander in the back corner of the end zone. This week Yeremiah Bell (6-0, 200lb) said the Jets plan is to hit Gronk (6-6,. 265) and keep him from getting release. Best of luck in your new endeavor, Yer.
*The biggest story was Belichick booting Julian Edelman and Niko Koutivedes off the field for fighting at the end of a punt play. Though to be honest with you, I must’ve been watching the pass rush drill on the far field (possible) or looking at the Daisy Dukes in front of me (probable) because I wasn’t even aware of it. Somehow those guys were able to take their punishment without a team meeting bitchfest with the owner to bellyache about their horrible treatment.
*I’ll never get tired of watching Wes Welker work trying to make himself better. They were running a route tree drill where coaches acted as DBs and the receivers had to make their breaks (in cuts, smashes, back shoulder fades, etc) off the coverage. Well on one rep, Welker took too many stutter-steps trying to break off his route, caught the ball and started swearing at himself like the perfectionist he is. He also had to run a lap for jumping offsides and like Edelman and Niko, made it the whole way without chucking a fistful of sunflower seeds into a coaches face. See how easy it is to be a professional, Sox?
*The worst moment of the day was Hernandez hitting the deck and clutching his leg. He hopped off the field while I had what I’m pretty sure paramedics call “Stroke-like symptoms.” By the time he got to the sidelines I was hovering above my body and looking down a tunnel of light with Darryl Stingley and Junior Seau at the end. But then the trainers started rubbing his calf like it was a cramp and I came back. Two plays later Hernandez was going up over Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory and all was right with the world.
*Well, except for the fact that on that play Wilson injured his ankle/foot. The world is still dying to see what Belichick saw that was worth a 2nd rounder.
*During stretches, Belichick emptied his playlist: Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Springsteen. His musical tastes run the gamut from A to B.
*Practicing Hail Marys (which they call “jump balls” incidentally) the D-line was Ninkovich, Wilfork and Jones. So much for Jermaine Cunningham being the edge rush specialist. He’s not seeing the field much at all.
*Hightower does get fooled in pass/run recognition at times. Once he dropped into the under-middle zone, had no one to cover, spun around before identifying it was an outside run. But he still recovered in time to sprint outside, fight through blockers and made the “tackle.” (Again, they weren’t full contact.) But he still looks this early like a 5-year veteran. And that one play reminded me of all the mock drafts that had him going to Baltimore to be Ray Lewis’ heir apparent.
*While Ebner looked OK in pass coverage, Ross “The Human Roster Move” Ventrone was disassembled into his individual molecules by Welker in a man coverage goal line drill.
*At one point Jones recorded a pretend sack and you could hear Mayo yelling “That’s our closer!” #PatriotsPriapism
*It had to be the smallest crowd they’ve had all camp. Way down from the first few practices that were averaging 14,000 or the 22,000 that went to the in-stadium practice. Seriously, it was almost the size of a Dolphins regular season game crowd.
*The best part of a small crowd is being able to hear Belichick call out specific game situations. “20 seconds left! No timeouts! Down by 2!” etc. That’s just close enough to hear his voice, far enough not to violate my court-issued 100 yard stay away order. @JerryThornton1